All the O's - O'Gara, O'Callaghan and O'Connell

If you’re looking for a change of pace this month, take a leaf out of Donncha O’Callaghan’s book. He’s urging rugby fans in Ireland and the UK to get on their bikes in support of Paul Darbyshire.

Originally from Wigan, Darbyshire is Munster’s head of strength and conditioning, having arrived at the province in 2007 from rugby league side Warrington Wolves, and was sadly diagnosed with motor neurone disease in September. O’Callaghan, joined by the rest of the Munster squad and a horde of red-shirted fans, will take part in a cycle ride, which covers 300 miles from 19-23 June and goes from Musgrave Park to Colwyn Bay via Dublin, then on to Warrington. Anyone can take part, whether cycling or just dropping in for the craic, and funds raised will go to the Darbyshire family and research into the illness.

The news came as a shock to Munster, not least because of the mentality Darbyshire has instilled the squad. “The initial shock was frightening for us because Darbs is like superman,” says O’Callaghan. “He changed the mindset in how we trained and made us believe that our bodies could do anything. He’s still coming to our matches, which is typical of him.”

O’Callaghan says Darbyshire and his family are an integral part of Munster. “If the lads are ever going out for a meal Darbs will always come with us. He’s the real heartbeat of the place. He’s a massive part of
our squad and so are his family, and that will always be the case.”

The cycle ride will be a tough haul, just like Darbyshire’s training routines, but rugby stars from all the provinces, hurlers, footballers and rugby league players are all looking forward to having a great time. “Even (John) Hayes, who’d probably break a bike if he sat on it, will be around squirting us with water bottles and his wife will be doing physio,” O’Callaghan says. “The craic will be hugely important. It’s the way Darbs would have done it.”

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This article appeared in the July 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.

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